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Tree-mendous!

Trees are such a familiar part of our countryside that I think we often take them for granted. Not only are trees ‘the lungs’ of our world they are also incredibly beautiful, varied and inspiring. People write poetry about them, paint them and hug them.

I am lucky in that I live quite a rural life and Devon has a reasonable amount of woodland. However, I was somewhat surprised to read that the UK has one of the lowest tree cover rates in Europe, just 13% compared to a European average of 37%.

The Woodland Trust has launched an ambitious plan to plant 64 million trees by 2025 and they want us all to help. They are offering a free pack of seeds containing rowan, dog rose, alder, buckthorn and holly, and it comes with full planting instructions and care advice. What a great idea! They will also offer help and advice as your seedlings germinate and grow.

The seeds they send you will be kept moist with compost to help them germinate. This means it will be harder to tell the different seeds apart when they arrive. If you would like to try and identify the seeds you’re planting you can wash the compost off but then the seeds must be sown immediately. It will be much easier to identify your seedling once it has germinated. To claim your free seed pack click on the link here.

I think this is an absolutely brilliant scheme and the more of us that get involved the better. I will be claiming my pack today.

If you are lucky enough to already have trees in your garden, have you ever considered collecting seeds from them, propagating the seedlings and then either planting more yourself or perhaps giving them away as gifts?

The top four methods for seed collection used on the UK National Tree Seed Project (UKNTSP) are easily remembered through the handy acronym SEED:

Shake tree over a large laid out tarpaulin

Extra-long pole to prune off seeds clusters

Encase branch ends in a cotton fine-meshed bag to collect small wind-dispersed seed

Delicately hand-pick fleshy berries

When collecting seeds it’s best not to collect from the ground, to avoid collecting old seeds from previous years. Never take more than 20% of the seed crop, remember seeds create the next generation of plants and sustain wildlife. There are lots of good reasons to collect seeds and you can read all about it here.

So, the next time you’re out collecting seeds or growing them in your garden, just think of the extraordinary journey their counterparts are on. Heading towards the ultimate goal of ensuring your great-great grandchildren can have the same experience you’re having. The simple yet irreplaceable delights of planting and watching your own seed grow from a tiny speck into a monumental tree.

The Woodland Trust is well worth supporting, and its website is full of interesting facts. Do have a look if you have a moment…

All photos copyright Julia Wherrell. Top illustration – The Woodland Trust.

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A Christmas cracker!

You can’t have Christmas dinner without Christmas crackers – well, that’s my view anyway! We groan at the awfulness of the mottos, we laugh at the pointlessness of the ‘gift’ and we feel silly wearing the paper hats… but it is a tradition and we stick to it every year.

In moments of great industriousness, I have made my own crackers and spent ages thinking of appropriate gifts and jokes to go inside. They always go down well, but they take a lot of planning.

This will be my first Christmas without my parents, Diana and John, so this year will be tinged with sadness for all the family. But Mummy’s enthusiasm for a traditional family Christmas is firmly entrenched with all of us and I shall be filling stockings, dressing the table and fussing about the sprouts just as always.

I love decorating the table, I think it makes such an impact with pretty napkins, candles and, of course, a special Christmas table centrepiece. I have produced so many over the years and always find myself getting excited as I add the finishing touches. If you don’t have a large table, you can still make it look lovely with a table runner ­– cheap enough to buy even in supermarkets these days – or run up one of your own very simply. Table sprinkles are also great fun and really do add a touch of glitz and sparkle… but you’ll be hoovering them up for weeks afterwards!

Returning to the Christmas cracker… did you know they were invented in 1847 by a London sweet maker called Thomas Smith? Rather unromantically, he devised the Christmas cracker as a money-making idea when bonbon sales slumped. They originally contained love messages and a sweet. The enterprising Mr Smith then went on to the snapping strip to replicate the sound of a crackling log fire!

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Anyone for skiing?

skiingThis is a really different card! It’s not perhaps suited to everyone you know but, if you have a skiing enthusiast among your friends and family, it would really hit the spot.

It really fascinates me how card making seems to fall into different groups. You have my favourite cards to make – flowery, lacy, pretty landscapes and gorgeous animals. These cards suit so many different people and they are excellent standbys to have in a drawer in case you need to quickly send or deliver a card you have forgotten, or only just been asked for.

The other group, however, is much more targeted. There’s no point in sending someone who is frightened of fish (me!) and hates being underwater (also me!) a card with a scuba diver on – but send one to my younger daughter Emily and she will be thrilled to little bits as scuba is a massive hobby for her.

This skiing card is going to thrill those that love their time on the slopes and a targeted card can give so much pleasure compared to a ‘safe’ choice, so it’s really worth making them and thinking about what that person might really like. The cocktail sticks make great poles to support the banner and the figure is cut using the Signature dies skier. Note the use of mirri card for the skis and poles!

Let’s hope you have lots of friends with similar tastes to mine as regards greeting cards – easy and beautiful please!

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Vintage Containers

CoffeeBeanSome call it clutter, hoarding or just plain rubbish. However, I love my collection of ‘useful’ pots. I save and buy quite randomly – I might see a basket in a charity shop, or a vase in a local gift shop or florist. But my squirreled away treasures also include things like Camembert boxes (come on, you can cover them or just use them as a ‘useful pot’) and, when I have seedlings in mind, even the yogurt pots are not immune to being well washed and stored away in a cupboard.

As a crafter I have worrying tendencies to clutter my life with things that will ‘come in useful’. But they bring me a lot of pleasure and when you find a brilliant use for something you had hidden away, it can feel really rewarding. If I have to defend myself I will play the eco card and talk loudly about recycling but …. the truth is I was obviously a hamster in a previous life and just like storing all sorts of goodies!

On the desk that I use for crafting I have several recycled items used for storage. I adore Jo Malone perfume and was given a set of their smellies for Christmas and the box – well, I was almost as thrilled with that as with the perfume! So that has all my ‘too small not to get lost’ in a drawer oddments. Then I have an old enamel pot that my Mum decorated with barge art when we were both going through ‘a phase’! That sorts my scissors and Japanese screw punches. I also have a pretty little handmade box that a crafter called Alice gave me one NEC that I treasure and also use for my stash of cocktail sticks.

So I understand only too well when my little toddler granddaughter holds tightly onto the box of an expensive toy and disappears off to play with that leaving whatever the present was languishing on the floor! Maybe my children can blame that on her Granny as an inherited trait!

This image caught my eye as I love the collection of vintage bits and pieces filled with flowers, I may even try and recreate something like it one day – if I do I’ll post it here on the blog!

Lily of the Valley card

Ingredients

Method

  1. Start by trimming some of the paler hessian backing paper to 7 ¾”, then the darker coffee sack paper to 7 ½”. Layer these onto the card with double sided tape.
  2. Cut out the main image from the cardmaking sheet. Also cut the decoupage pieces.
  3. Attach the image to the card using tape and then build the decoupage with Pinflair glue gel.
  4. Make the embellishment of lilies of the valley by cutting the die multiple times in soft green, cream and white. Finish the bunch with a bow tied in bakers twine.
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Tea for two

TeaCupBirthdayFor the last 100 years at least, “I’ll just pop the kettle on” has been the British way of handling life. If in doubt … have a cup of tea. Things not going right … have a cup of tea. Long and difficult discussion to have with a family member, I’ll just get the kettle on!

The older members of my family were complete tea-aholics drinking many, many cups a day. But now as the younger generation comes through and flourishes, not so many of them are tea drinkers. I’m a bad example as I mainly drink coffee, then switch to peppermint or ginger tea after lunch, but my daughters – not a sign of a hot drink, what did I do wrong? My younger daughter quite likes mint tea made with fresh mint leaves (bet nobody in the office makes her one of those!) but apart from that, neither of them have anything except water. Goodness me, my granny would be amazed!

I always love sending a card with a tea bag hidden inside it as a little extra – just makes the handmade card even more of a little present. Here’s how to make this card:

Ingredients

Technique

  1. Cut some lilac card to slightly smaller size than the card blank and then white smaller again and layer. Attach to main card using thin foam tape or sticky pads.
  2. Die cut the cups and teapot in white and then stick some scraps of lilac card behind the rose design.
  3. Die cut the Clarissa die in white and trim to fit the card, attach with glossy accents glue or a quickie glue pen.
  4. Now cut a plain circle in the Kraft card and layer onto a scalloped circle in lilac card about 3½” diameter. Attach the teapot and cups using glue gel and curve them slightly.
  5. Die cut the wild rose in cream and green – or you could do it all in white and colour with alcohol pens. Attach to the card as shown.
  6. Finish the card with some flat back pearls and the printed out sentiments.
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